Saturday, December 22, 2012

I'm too sexy (for my job)

Yikes! Good thing neither Mungo or I live in Iowa. Not sure how the Hawkeye Supreme Court decided this one. Did they apply Marbury vs. Madison? Kramer vs. Kramer? Douchey vs. Bagg?

Did the court read out a verdict or did they just show this video?

One more while we are in the wayback machine:

An Interesting "Year in Review"

Cornell's Dr. David Collum writes a yearly "Year in Review."  Lots of interesting stuff there.

I enjoyed his link to this oldie-but-goodie, from Father Guido Sarducci:

Friday, December 21, 2012

Okay, so THIS is the Parody

Okay, so the original was just awful, not a parody.  Here is the parody.

Will Farrell as DB and John C. Reilly as BC.  That explains the resurgence of the original.

And, to be fair and to placate commenters, the original duet of the SONG was very, very nice.  Beautiful voices.  But the video is just creepy, even more so now that Jeff H informs me that it was not a joke.

Robin Hood? Nope, Just Another Bunch of Thugs with a Good Press Agent

It has never been clear to me why the right chooses to fight about whether "we" (whatever that means) should "help" (whatever that means) the "poor." (whatever THAT means).

The two questions should be:
1.  Is it possible to help the poor?  That is, can even the best-designed program, implemented correctly, actually do anything to help the poor and to reduce poverty?

2.  Is there any reason to believe there is a substantial probability of actual politicians, the kind of people actually in the world, not in the fevered imaginations of statist zealots, will actually do anything like what is required if #1 is to be satisfied?

I think the answer to #1 is largely "no."  Attempts to give away money create rent-seeking contests that dissipate most, or all, or perhaps even more than all, the amount of resources "we" (what does that mean?) try to give away.

But the answer to #2 is clearly and robustly "no."  This is the public choice critique, in its simplest and starkest form.

Which leads me to "Munger's Law," which I use in class all the time.  It goes like this:

Start with this statement:  "The [state / government] should do XXXX, because people can't choose for themselves and I trust that the [state / government] will do a better job."

Maybe the reason that people can't choose for themselves is that they don't have the resources, so we'll use Food Stamp programs to give them more.  Or maybe people can't choose for themselves because they are too stupid and weak, so we'll have laws against drugs and prostitution.  Or maybe people can't choose because there's a collective action problem, like zoning or pollution problems.

All I ask is that the person making this statement make the following change:   "Politicians I actually know, who live in the world, should do XXXX, because people can't choose for themselves and I trust that those politicians will do a better job."

It's almost impossible for that to be true, in most cases.  People want "the state" to be in charge, but then when it's George W. Bush they say, "Oh, I didn't mean HIM."  People want "the state" to control policy, but when politicians support Amendment One (banning gay marriage in NC) we hear, "Not that!  That's not what we wanted!"

How about taking from the rich and giving to the poor?  Should the state be Robbing Hood?  Can the state be expected to do that?  Well, you get reelected by appealing to....the very poor, right?  No, you get eleected by appealing to the very MIDDLE.

I give you (courtesy of WH) ....Milton Friedman and "Director's Law."

Think that's wrong?  Our Prez threatened to veto "Plan B" NOT because it did too little for the poor, but because it imposed ANY cost on the middle class.  You give things to the middle class, if you want to get elected.  You don't give to the poor.  That's nonsense.  What politicians do is pester the bejeezus out of the poor, and shovel cash to the middle class.  That's electoral politics; it couldn't be any other way.

Fiscal Cliff

The meeting between the President and the Speaker was taped!  And here is the video...

I'm afraid that the ending is a perfect description of the argument about the use of legislative rules to constrain politicians on spending, or the Fed on monetary policy.  The endless series of police come to arrest the previous one.  Brilliant.

Nod to WH

Something New, Under the Sun

This makes perfect sense.  But it never occurred to me that it would be true.  Very interesting.  People feel bad about "wasting" resources (killing trees) when they use paper.  Of course, that's like feeling bad about eating corn, or beets, or squash, or (fill in other plants here), since trees are just plants and we can grow more.  So the whole "don't kill trees" thing is pretty dumb.

Nonetheless, to continue.  SINCE people (rightly or wrongly) feel bad about wasting trees, they self-control their actions, and conserve.

But....if the opportunity to recycle presents itself--given that the market to recycle used paper towels is so efficient--not--people drop the self-regulation and use lots more paper!  It's as if they say to themselves, "Since I'm recycling it, I'm not really wasting it, and I can use all I want!"  (MORE AFTER THE BREAK!!)

The edited volume blues

"Dr. Karen" has a few thoughts on the topic of "Should I do an edited collection". I reproduce it verbatim here as I have nothing to add to its towering awesomeness and truthfulness.


Let me say it again: No.

 Let’s put it a different way:

 You: But, it’s just the papers from a conference panel. Is it ok then?

 Me: No.

 You: But, I’m co-editing it, so I don’t have to do all the work. Is it ok then?

 Me: No. And, please, co-editing? Are you kidding me?

 You: But all I have to do is collect and edit the papers and write an Intro. Is it ok then?

 Me: No. And you’re doing all this and don’t even have a chapter in it? Are you kidding me?

 You: But I’ll have a book for tenure. Me: No, you won’t. Edited collections don’t count.

 You: But it’ll get me a job.

 Me: You want to know what’ll get you a job? A REFEREED JOURNAL ARTICLE IN THE TOP JOURNAL IN YOUR FIELD. Write that! Write two of them! Hell, you can write a whole effing monograph in the time you are going to waste fighting with your contributors, waiting for the external reviewers, arguing with your lame press, agonizing over the copy-editing, and trying to market the book because your lame press doesn’t spend a dime in advertising.

 You: Really?

 Me: Yes.

 You: An editor from a really great press I never heard of actually got in touch with me! And asked me to do it! Is it ok then?

 Me: No, and never, ever, ever accept an offer of publication from someone from a press you’ve never heard of. Or even a press you have heard of, if they come chasing after you. It’s the prom, sweetheart. Don’t go with the first person who asks you (unless they’re the dream date you’ve been waiting for). Do the work, and get yourself into position to get the date you really want.

 You: But I am already committed.

 Me: Get out of the commitment.

 You: But it’s my friends.

 Me: Have drinks with your friends. Go to Vegas with your friends. Do not waste your precious writing and research time gathering up and, god forbid, editing, your friends’ questionable essays and volunteering unpaid, uncredited time to get your friends a publication. And by the way, their chapter in your edited collection is barely going to do them any good either.

 You: But I’m going to go ahead and do this edited collection.

 Me: It’s your funeral.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


For more then 30 years, I have heard Angus call himself "Betty."  (Nope, no more details.  Just trust me here.)

So, in honor of Angus, I made a video about externalities in which Betty figures prominently.  I am not a very attractive man, but it turns out I am a genuinely repulsive woman.

A credit:  I had never recognized the centrality of manners, and "moral" social norms in controlling externalities.  But my main man Russ Roberts pointed it out in editing this piece, and then doing this podcast, years ago.  So, a big post Festival of Lights shout out to RR:  when I say "Manners," I always think of YOU, big man!

UPDATE:  Sam Wilson, yes, of COURSE the model for Art is the Dub-MOE.  I even tried to get that vacant Pooh-bear expression down.  As for Carl....well, a guy needs SOME secrets. 

UPDATE II:  I don't mean to claim there is anything intellectually novel here, folks.  My good friend John Nye had a very nice piece, years ago, that makes the "knowledge problem" point way better in print.  And this recent post by Steven Landsburg did a nice job summarizing the issues, and the problems, of an arbitrary "starting point."  Oh, and Mario Rizzo, too.  I could go on, but the point is that I am sumarizing what a lot of people already know, but rarely gets taught when the subject of externalities comes up in basic micro courses.

Would Tarzan Believe in God?

Would Tarzan believe in God? Conditions for the emergence of religious belief

Konika Banerjee & Paul Bloom, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, forthcoming

Abstract:  Would someone raised without exposure to religious views nonetheless come to believe in the existence of God, an afterlife, and the intentional creation of humans and other animals? Many scholars would answer yes, proposing that universal cognitive biases generate religious ideas anew within each individual mind. Drawing on evidence from developmental psychology, we argue here that the answer is no: children lack spontaneous theistic views and the emergence of religion is crucially dependent on culture.

So, would God believe in Tarzan?  I think not.  That whole story of being raised in the jungle is pretty implausible.  I think God prefers nonfiction--biographies and sweeping histories--to those kinds of fantasy novels.

Nod to Kevin Lewis, who believes in Tarzan, I believe

A Very Merry European Christmas

The marriage is one the rocks.  Germany has lost its love for Greece, and England is waiting in the wings...

It's a sequel to this "Very European Break-up"

Little Drummer Boy from Bing and David

We posted this two years ago.  But since it's Christmas time, and just for the readers of KPC, here is four minutes of your life you will never get back, and will be mad that you watched.  But it's like a train wreck, you. just. can't. look. away.

Bing Crosby and David Bowie sing, "The Little Drummer Boy."  It's a parody, but of what?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From Spirit of Inquiry Dinner

Duke PPE's Dr. Jonny Anomaly won the "Spirit of Inquiry" Award from the Pope Foundation for Higher Education, out of 100 entries.

And he did it looking shockingly like Freddy Mercury.

It's a Miracle Edition of Grand Game

Michael Rennie was ill
The day the supply curve stood still
But he told us
Where we stand.

And Paul Krugman was there in silver underwear
Bob Reich was the invisible man

It's a miracle.  Minimum wage creates middle class people

Nod to Chateau, and his "Denton" t-shirt.


Last Minute Christmas Gifts! Christmas 2012 Last Minute Edition

Need some last minute Christmas gifts, for that discerning sort of person who hangs out with KPC readers?  Not just ANY gift, but a cool gift that you can actually get shipped in time for the day, arriving (ojala!) on Monday?

Books on war and strategy

Beauty product samples of the month, each month, $10.

If you know something the person likes, buy an on-line subscription.  They might never pay for the ad-free version of Pandora, for example, but it's cheap and they will actually use it!  And your friend/SO can listen on phone, laptop, or any computer at home.  It's quite handy.

Noodle Of The Month club!  Or some other food subscription.  But good Italian pasta in particular is a nice, easy to use, product that everybody likes!  (Okay, not for Angus, but for people without allergies to gluten)

Membership in an art museum, theater company, etc.  If you live near SOME kind of city, there must be a season subscription or membership you can buy.  And though they may not have bought it for themselves, a good theater subscription will get them out of the house to go see some plays. 

Buy an "experience," from a site like this, or perhaps like this, even more generally.  Unusual, interesting, and you can still get 'er done in time for the day!


Angus' 2012 Music Picks

OK people, forget about Frank Ocean and Grizzly Bear. I got the 2012 musical goods for you right here.

My favorite 10 albums, in no particular order.

Moon Duo: Circles

the Duo have reigned themselves in a bit this time around, but their fuzzed out glory never ever gets old.

 Peaking Lights: Lucifer

Perhaps not quite as good as "936", but lo-fi pysch dub has not yet gotten remotely old for me.

Tame Impala: Lonerism

A little on the polished side for me, but just so good. Sure, it's "retro" get over it and get into it!

Purity Ring: Shrines

I didn't think I'd like this album. Thought I was too old and grumpy. This is amazing music. Part Sundays, part 4 Tet, mesmerizing.

Waxahatchee: American Weekend

Wow! So happy that music like this is being made in 2012. A little Mountain Goats a little Liz Phair and a lot of awesome.

Tindersticks: The Something Rain 

A return to form from one of my all-time favorite bands. I read a review that called Tindersticks the spiritual father of The National. I think that might be right.

King Tuff: King Tuff

This guy is just the bizzle. Makes up for Harlem not putting out a record this year.

Royal Headache: Royal Headache

So so so good. Can Australia be the cradle of rock nowadays?

Beak: >>

Very Krauty and very cool. Give it some time.

Deep Time: Deep Time 

Man, Austin TX just keeps spawning great music.


The links of Wednesday....

1.  Going through a dry spell?  End it with a bang!

2.  Is health insurance like auto insurance?  Should it be?

3.  I looked, but there was no sign-up sheet for volunteers.  New treatment...

4.  Giving the lie to the idea that medicine is a "public service."

5.  Evaluation in medical services:  1.  Did you spend your budget?  2.  If not, why the FiretrUCK not?  Go back and spend it, ALL of it, you idiot.   3.  If yes, add 10% and submit new budget.  Notice that service and customer satisfaction never appear in this "evalution" process at all.

6.  All of political psychology reduced to one variable?  Okay, MOST, not all.  But it is striking.

7.  Sometimes, the world just tells its own jokes.  Here's the setup:  David Brooks scheduled to teach course on "humility" at Yale.  Presumably, DB will have P-Kroog in for some guest lectures on the more advanced "Topics in Humility" sections.  It's at Yale, too.  You can't make this stuff up.  DB recognizes that course title will provoke "smart ass jibes," but he's just too humble to care.

8.  Thank GOODNESS there's a Republican House, to hold the line on spending.  If only there were a third party, one that was SERIOUS about the deficit...

9.  Robert Bork has died.

10.  The Smutty Professor.  Porco?  Really?  Not sure what to think about this.

11.  The defense theory ("The Owl Did It!") may fly, after all. Michael Peterson, about whom Angus has mused before.

12.  Local knowledge is sustainable:  Hayek would have been a local focal guy.

Nod to Angry Alex, Anonyman, and Kevin Lewis

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More Russian Drivers

David Skarbek sends this video, on the "Crazy Russian Drivers" meme.  I started not to put it up, because it's pretty horrible.  But the cows appear to get up in pretty good shape.  The driver.... hard to say.


Too Much Faith, Not Too Little

I have long believed that the problem market economies have with statists is misunderstood.

Pro-market folks tend to think that statists just don't understand markets.  And to some extent that's true.  But the real problem is that statists have too much faith in markets.

Wait...too MUCH?  How can that be? (More after the jump...)

Predictions for 2013

It's possible that someday I will think of something, and be able to say that something, before and / or better than Bill Easterly says it.  But I doubt it.  Terrific interview on how stupid the idea of the "Authoritarian Growth Miracle in China" is.  It's over.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Toy Soldiers!

Web Ad!

Retro Toy Soldiers for sale

Army Men ToysI admit it.... I melted all my best toy army men when I was a kid. What an idiot I was! But I must admit, it was really fun. I think I was addicted to melting my plastic army men. It all starts with just one melted soldier and then before you know it you have a giant green puddle of melted plastic on your patio, dad never liked that for some reason.

Now it's time to make up for that mistake. Let the Loyal Robot track down all the toy army men you lost (or melted) as a kid.

Of course, I never did this PERSONALLY, but if I had it might have looked like this:


There IS no cliff

"Pentagon officials and military contractors said that billions of dollars in automatic spending reductions [from the fiscal cliff] would be delayed for weeks, if not months, as they figured out where they needed to cut and by how much. Defense Department hiring would be stopped temporarily,
officials said. But no one would be fired immediately, and no programs would end
." [NYT]

That's not a cliff.  That's a gentle slope toward reducing military spending.  If this be cliff, bring me more of it!

Lagniappe:  What in the world is going to happen to the estate tax?  Are people gonna push Momma off the train?  "Sorry, Mom, but if you live another week it's going to cost 35%."  "No need to push, son, I'll JUMP for that kind of money!  Buh-BYE!"

Can we have "no-drive" cars?

Could we have cars with no drivers?

Maybe not, unless we had an America with no lawyers.

Who to sue?

"Anyone who gets into the convoy business will have a lot of legal work ahead of them "

Article on Mental Illness

"I am Adam Lanza's mother."

Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the district's most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can't function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30 to 1:50 Monday through Friday until they turn 18.

The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, "Look, Mom, I'm really sorry. Can I have video games back today?"

"No way," I told him. "You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly."

His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. "Then I'm going to kill myself," he said. "I'm going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself." That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right.
[More after the jump...]

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Beware of "Bumblers"

One of the key precepts of the game "Diplomacy" is "Beware of Bumblers!"

If you find that someone just writes down orders wrong, and makes mistakes, at key moments, they may in fact be an indiot.

But they also may be clever enough to be faking it.

Which brings me to this guy.  He "bumbled" the housework, by answering a "phone" (actually a hot iron), putting it to his cheek and ear.

Then he tried to run to the kitchen and hit the edge of the door straight on, further damaging himself.

A small price to pay for getting to say, "I'm off housework!  I'm just no good at it!"

Beware of bumblers, ladies. And, gentlemen, watch a true master at work, and learn.

Nod to Angry Alex.

Why Don't People Listen?

Affective Contagion in Effortful Political Thinking

Cengiz Erisen, Milton Lodge & Charles Taber
Political Psychology, forthcoming

We offer a theory of motivated political reasoning based on the claim that the feelings aroused in the initial stages of processing sociopolitical information inevitably color all phases of the evaluation process. When a citizen is called on to express a judgment, the considerations that enter into conscious rumination will be biased by the valence of initial affect. This article reports the results of two experiments that test our affective contagion hypothesis — unnoticed affective cues influence the retrieval and construction of conscious considerations in the direction of affective congruence. We then test whether these affectively congruent considerations influence subsequently reported policy evaluations, which we call affective mediation. In short, the considerations that come consciously to mind to inform and to support the attitude construction process are biased systematically by the feelings that are aroused in the earliest stages of processing. This underlying affective bias in processing drives motivated reasoning and rationalization in political thinking.

Nod to Kevin Lewis